Irish champion Colum - the only city boxer in last City Hall show.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Irish champion Colum - the only city boxer in last City Hall show. thumbnail Colum is now well known for his charity work taking on many gruelling challenges.

IT'S exactly 50 years since the long defunct Armagh City Amateur Boxing Club presented what was to be their last tournament in the town's old City Hall.

Colum Doran, a former Irish title holder, has every good reason to remember the date of that event - Tuesday 12th December 1967 - as he was the only local fighter on the star-studded bill.

Not alone did Colum, then aged only in his early teens, win his lightweight bout against the Leinster champion, P Nulty from Drogheda, he also went home with the accolade for the best boxer on the night for which he was presented with the Frank McGovern Memorial Cup.

Another date that lives long in Colum's memory is 23 April 1965 when he was crowned the 9st Irish Boxing Champion at the National Stadium in Dublin. His trainer was Ronnie Brown, a police officer stationed in Richhill.

No other Armagh boxer has since equalled that achievement.

At the time the sixteen-year-old city lad was beating all before him and was selected to box against the Irish Guards in Newry Town Hall, stopping his opponent in the 2nd Round. Defeat was simply not a word in Colum's vocabulary having gone 21 consecutive fights unbeaten.

Then somewhat unexpectedly the tide turned when he suffered what he termed a "bad loss" to a senior international fighter.

"It left me severely down-hearted and disillusioned." Colum admitted, resulting in him taking a break from the ring for 18 months.

But his passion for the game eventually won out in the end enabling him to put the gloves back on and relive the good times.

Colum was picked to represent an Ulster selection to box against the King's Regiment in St Mary's Hall, Portadown going toe-to-toe with British Champion and English international J Dogley; after a terrific ding-dong battle Colum once again had his arm raised in triumph- a hard earned points' victory.

Back once more on the crest of a wave little did he know that such a promising career was to have a somewhat premature ending.

His next and final fight in his home town was the City Hall one, already referred to, which was also the last boxing show in what had become a mecca for the sport.

Shortly after that Colum hung up his gloves for good having just turned 19. It was also the end of the Armagh City Amateur Boxing Club which he had joined at the age of 12, along with his brother Sean, who later formed the highly successful St Patrick's Boxing Club in Keady, which after his death was renamed the Sean Doran Amateur Boxing Club in his memory.

Colum can recall as if it were yesterday making his way in the company of his brother and Martin Kelly, Sean Brennan and Louis Murphy from the Mill Row to the Co-Op entry in Market Street three nights a week for training.

"The club had a marvellous committee, all men with a huge interest in the the sport and a burning desire to see the club grow. I speak of the likes of Frank Keys, Vincent Vallely, Paddy Brolly, Jackie Cauldwell, Francie Kelly, Danny Doran, Anthony Oliver, Des Lennon and Pat O' Connor," adds Colum.

It may have been no state-of-the-art set up but the camaraderie and sense of belonging that existed more than compensated for any lack of luxury "The club itself was an old store used by the Co-Op. It had a tin roof with briars coming through and a very uneven wooden floor on which we had to do our sit-ups and exercises," reflects Colum.

"It had a shower that was always freezing cold and a toilet that was more often than not blocked," he smiled.

"But it had its own ring and three punch bags, a floor- to -ceiling ball which was great and a punch ball. The gloves were mostly filled with horse hair and the 16oz sparring gloves were big and awkward.

"It may have been nothing fancy, yet it hosted many key events.

"There use to be inter-club tournaments where we had neighbouring clubs from Portadown, Lurgan, Banbridge, Newry and Crossmaglen all coming to us.The boxers and officials all got a ticket to go to Forte's cafe in English Street for fish and chips, tea, bread and butter. Most venues would have had sandwiches or soup but Forte's topped them all. Romeo Forte was a loyal supporter of the club.

"We fought in many different places like the Temperance Hall in Richhill and Markethill Picture House. Also at open air tournaments and at carnivals, places like Ballyhegan, Loughbrickland, Dromara, Crossmaglen, Derrygonnelly and Dromore.

Instead of getting trophies we were given prizes like a brush and comb set, a knife and fork set or a set of glasses.

"The smoking ban was still a long way off so a lot of the smaller venues would have been full of smoke."

Whilst most of the club members came from the city the net was much wider taking in the likes of Richhill, Mountnorris, Ballyhegan and Newtownhamilton.

It was like taking a step back in time listening to Colum reel off names of club members: "You had Tommy Darragh, Anthony Quigley, Dinky Duffy Bobby Higgins, Billy Smyth, Thomas McCann,Brian McCourt, Packy McNally, Eddie Newbanks, Gerald McParland, Terence Gillespie, Dermot Cauldwell and Sean Oliver."

As he continued to reminisce other names mentioned included the O' Brien brothers, Eddie and Jodie, Peter and Jim Hughes,Tony Hunter, Liam Gallagher, Jackie Morgan and Patsy Morgan, John Parker and Paddy Bailie, Michael Feighan, Peter Toner, Eamon Donaldson and Dessie Kerr.

There were many more who would have fancied themselves with their mitts among them Terry McKeever, the Courtney brothers Colm, Brian and Terry, an Ulster Junior Heavyweight Champion, John Downey, Christopher Halligan, the Rafferty brothers Frank, Jodie and Brian, Sammy Byrne, Paddy Docherty, the Connolly brothers Dessie and Harry, Ken Berry and Jim Finnegan. The list could go on ad infinitum.

"I made a lot of friends through boxing and travelled to a lot of different places in those years. It was a great time for the sport in Armagh, said Colum, who likes to keep himself in tip top condition.

He has boxed at the World Masters Championship for retired fighters as well as taking part in various gruelling challenges for charity.

"A few attempts were made to revive the club by Tommy Darragh and Gerald McParland but nothing lasted," he confirmed.

"However, a new club has just started up in Russell Street and I wish Donal Reneghan, brother of former champion,Marty, and the rest of the coaches every success.

Hopefully another Irish title will come Armagh's way soon; 50 years has been far too long of a wait."


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